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University of North Alabama Demolition Work Kicks Off New Stadium Complex Project

Tue July 09, 2024 - Southeast Edition #15
Florence Times Daily & UNA

The Bank Independent Stadium will include a 10,000-seat football and soccer field and an adjacent baseball field.
Rendering courtesy of the University of North Alabama
The Bank Independent Stadium will include a 10,000-seat football and soccer field and an adjacent baseball field.

Some head-turning activity along Pine Street in Florence, Ala., just before Independence Day signaled the physical start of making a longtime dream a reality for the University of North Alabama (UNA).

Heavy construction equipment began razing the school's Mike D. Lane Field on July 2, marking the start of the demolition phase at the site of what will become the new on-campus Bank Independent Stadium.

"We had a steady stream of interested onlookers with all of the activity on July 2 at the Bank Independent Stadium site," Athletic Director Josh Looney told the Florence Times Daily. "The presence of tall cranes removing lighting structures paired simultaneously with the arrival of large excavators beginning demo work made for a very active and visible kickoff to construction."

The baseball stadium off Pine Street, along with an adjacent field that is used for the university's soccer games and football practices as well as a nearby field where the UNA Marching Pride practices, are being demolished to make room for the athletics complex.

Bank Independent Stadium will include a 10,000-seat football and soccer field and an adjacent baseball field. Together, the new facilities — along with a turf field near the softball complex on Cox Creek Parkway — have an estimated price tag of $65 million.

Other stadium amenities include the ability for future expansion, a 360-degree fan concourse, a premium tower featuring a new weight room, 13 spacious suites, a multipurpose stadium club, outdoor gathering areas and multiple seating options with new fan features.

The football portion of the complex is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2026, while the baseball field is slated for its first game next spring, the Times Daily reported.

In addition, while Bank Independent Stadium is being built, the field on Cox Creek Parkway will be used for soccer games and football and band practices. Once the construction project is finished, the Cox Creek field will become the permanent practice site for the UNA band.

Baseball Park Being Readied for 2025

Concurrent with construction on Bank Independent Stadium, work also is taking place at the baseball field adjacent to the stadium and at the UNA Spring Sports Complex at Cox Creek.

UNA Baseball will enjoy a reimagined space for the 2025 season that will include a new playing surface, an all-chairback seating concourse, a video board and a unique outfield wall that resembles Fenway Park's historic "Green Monster" in Boston.

While site construction will continue into 2026, the majority of the amenities for the baseball team and its fans are targeted to come online in 2025.

"We are working to ensure baseball's space will be as complete as possible to host practices in January, followed by home competition in March 2025," Looney said. "While we will address logistics to host baseball competition through the construction process, we plan for baseball to play its 2025 season on campus and believe fans will enjoy some of the new experiences we will be integrating as part of the space."

Top Contractors Working On UAB Sports Complex

Over the last year, UNA has partnered with Hoar Project Management (HPM) and Davis Architects, both based in Birmingham, to begin the initial work on Bank Independent Stadium, according to a news release from the university, while Mammoth Sports Construction in Kansas partnered with the architectural firm.

Birmingham-based Jim Cooper Construction was awarded the construction bid to begin work on the project's first phase, which includes the baseball construction and stadium site groundwork.

"Our partners at Cooper Construction have had full-time project supervisors on site since the groundbreaking ceremony on June 14 working alongside the city and subcontractors to prepare existing utilities, electricity, and pre-construction logistics for the start of demolition," Looney told the Florence news source.

"It was exciting to move into the more visible stages of our timeline," he added. "We anticipate the site demo will be complete at the end of July with groundwork beginning in August as we transition fall football, soccer, and baseball practices to our new multipurpose turf facility at Cox Creek Park as well as the Florence Sportsplex."

Carbine Construction, a general contractor from Florence, also started work on the Cox Creek project a month ago. That field is expected to be ready in time for football operations before the start of the fall semester in August.

Turf installation began in the second week of July, and Looney said the facility should be ready for use by the end of July.

"The project has been coordinated well, with [the Cox Creek] construction winding down as work at the Bank Independent Stadium site ramps up," he explained.

"The arrival of this complex will be an immediate asset to the larger community with its ability to host football and soccer events, cross country/track workouts, band practices, and UNA intramural activities. The visual enhancements of the complex are striking with the field and track being adjacent to the Hilda B. Anderson Softball Stadium and the UNA beach volleyball courts."

A Dream Finally Being Fulfilled

When the Bank Independent Stadium project broke ground in mid-June, it was the culmination of more than 50 years of planning, hoping and dreaming by generations of UNA students, alumni and university officials.

The event came just a few hours after members of the UNA Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution authorizing and supporting the stadium's design and overall budgetary approach, which paved the way for moving the project into its third and final phase.

"Today's groundbreaking further solidifies our Board's commitment to fund this capital project," Will Trapp, president pro tempore of UNA's Board, said. "We have received great support from alumni and friends, community organizations, and, of course, from our naming rights partner, Bank Independent.

"That base of funding will be supplemented by enhancements in athletic revenue from having our own stadium. We also view this investment in UNA Athletics as one for the [Muscle] Shoals community as well. Our hope is that it will be a place for people to come together in support of this university and make memories that will join them to us and to each other. We need to invest in things that bring us together. Our students asked for this years ago, and it's exciting to see it finally happening."

The launch of the historic Shine On, Gold comprehensive campaign to raise $100 million for UNA helped propel the project forward, the university noted in its news release.

Total fundraising for the stadium has soared past $25 million, and school officials expect to add significantly to that figure now that work on the project has gotten under way.

To bolster the effort, the UNA Board of Trustees has authorized the university to borrow up to $35 million toward the cost of construction. Additionally, the UNA athletic department reserved funds for the work during the planning process and is making those monies available for construction. Stadium proceeds in areas such as concessions, parking, signage, sponsorships and ticket sales will help as well.

The UNA Student Government Association passed a resolution in 2018 that favored a new on-campus stadium and indicated a willingness by students to shoulder a fee as part of building a new facility. But university officials made clear that the school would never impose such a fee to build or operate Bank Independent Stadium.

In fact, at the UNA Board of Trustees meeting authorizing and supporting the stadium project, its members unanimously approved the 2024-2025 tuition schedule, which includes no increases for undergraduate students for a second consecutive year.

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